By Zenith Rahman
A young Muslim man from Southern California was named of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans by the United States Junior Chamber on September 26th.
Atif Moon, a UCLA alumnus, co-founded the Center for Global Understanding (CFGU) when he felt the need to create a public organization which integrated and voiced Muslim American’s opinions in Washington D.C. Working in conjunction with The Washington Center (TWC), an organization which helps students with internship placement and housing, CFGU aims to “build a bridge between different cultures and religions by ensuring that there is an understanding among and between each other’s cultures, religions, and values that bring all of us together.”
“It is an excellent opportunity for Muslim American students to engage in meaningful civic opportunities whether they are in Public health, Finance, Law or Public Policy. CFGU/TWC are working effectively today to help create this opportunity for young adults to ensure that our future generations possess the skills and leadership qualities to meet the challenges of today as well as tomorrow,” said Congressman Keith Ellison.
The Ten Outstanding Young Americans award is one of the oldest and most prestigious to recognitions awarded in America. Winners are selected based on their achievement and contributions in various categories such as personal improvement, social progressions, philanthropic contributions, and political and social service. Since 1938, the United States Junior Chamber has selected ten Americans annually who exemplify the best attributes of the nation’s young people aged 18 through 40.
Over 500 people watched Moon and the nine of honorees receive this honor and speak at the 71st annual black-tie awards ceremony in the Orlando, Florida Ramada Inn Orlando Celebration Resort and Convention Center.
“It still feels a little unreal, seeing my name up there with past winners like Presidents Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy. However, it is definitely exciting to be selected as a part of this elite group of people,” said Moon.
Despite being paralyzed from the waist down since birth and being confined to a wheelchair, Moon has accomplished a lot. Although he fought cancer and went through a series of surgeries to stabilize his spinal cord until he was 16, Moon has never really considered himself “disabled” or let his condition impair him from living his life.
From early on in his life, Moon used sports to gain independence and learn self-reliability. Since the age of 5, Moon participated in a 5k-wheelchair race. He continued his love for sports and started competing in wheelchair tennis tournaments at the age of seven.
“I was always the youngest on the team and struggled just to even win one game in a match,” said Moon, “however, I continued to stay persistent and work hard.” Moon won his first tournament in 1992, and the winning streak continued. Moon was ranked 7th nationally among the Junior Wheelchair Tennis players in 2004.
After graduating from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, Moon attended UCLA and graduated with a degree in Business Economics. During his time in college, Moon interned with FOX Sports and AEG/ Los Angeles Kings in Marketing. Moon took his experience to a national level when he was selected from a large group of students to intern at the White House in 2006. And it was at this internship where Moon felt the need for Muslims to get involved and have a voice at the nation’s capitol. Moon co-founded the Center for Global Understanding (CFGU), a non-advocacy, non-religious organization that encourages Muslim youth to participate in civic engagement by interning in Washington D. C. This organization also plays as a resource for public and private organizations seeking knowledge about Islam and Muslims through an Islamic Scholars Initiative.
“It may be a tough time for the Muslim ummah (community) in the US right now, but nothing should stop you from achieving your goals,” said Moon.